It’s not easy to adjust to the professional level of hockey. There’s the speed of the game, the physicality, and learning a new system after years in junior or the NCAA. Tom Parisi learned those lessons this season in St. John’s, with some bumps in the road in his rookie season.
After a successful four-year career at Providence College in the NCAA, Parisi signed a two-year deal with the Montreal Canadiens, registering one assist in a five-game tryout at the end of last season. He headed into this year looking to claim a regular spot in his first season, with the IceCaps having questions about their defensive depth.
It was assumed that Mark Barberio and Zach Redmond would battle for NHL spots, meaning that head coach Sylvain Lefebvre would be relying on a defensive unit whose most experienced players were Brett Lernout, Ryan Johnston, and Joel Hanley. Even with Barberio clearing waivers just before the season began, it was expected Parisi would be a regular fixture in the lineup.
The Commack, NY native brought a lot of appealing traits to the IceCaps’ defence this season, able to carry the puck out of his zone with regularity, and setting up scoring chances as a result. With Barberio back in the NHL, the IceCaps were extremely limited in the number of puck-moving defenders, and it gave Parisi a chance to shine.
His ability to transition the play from defence to offence was a massive asset in the games he played, despite the system stressing the old “chip-and-chase” strategy. His style provided far more spark for the IceCaps, who at times were stagnant in terms of creating goals. He didn’t directly contribute many points, but he was able to use a heavy shot to create more chances for his teammates.
Tom Parisi gets his first AHL goal! Another great set up by Audette pic.twitter.com/pUFIJeTkf7— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) December 30, 2016
Even with the learning curve associated with the professional game, Parisi was more than capable defensively this year. Using good positioning and an active stick he did well to minimize scoring chances against, and due to his mobility could beat opponents to loose pucks and clear the zone with ease.
For whatever reason, it was difficult for him to earn ice time under Lefebvre. He appeared in just 45 games and down the stretch was often a healthy scratch in favour of Josiah Didier. There were hiccups due to his propensity to carry the puck, but Parisi wasn’t given much leash to work with unlike other players.
With Barberio now in Colorado and Ryan Johnston a free agent, the chance is there for Parisi to seize a full-time roster spot next season. To do that he will have to showcase his puck-moving ability and solid defending on a regular basis lest he go through the healthy scratch routine again.
Noah Juulsen and Simon Bourque are both bound for Laval next year, so Parisi’s competition doesn’t get much easier. With a new coach likely at the helm and a fresh system in place, we may see him be allowed to work through growing pains, and not worry about being benched for a safer option.